The Wish
by Marianne Willman, historical (2000)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97577-5

I've lost count of many lyrical's and magical's that grace the praises lavished on this author. Thinking I'm in for some pagan mythology-tinged poetic works, maybe like something Shana Abé would write, I quickly bought this book when it came out. Alas, to my dismay (and at the cost of $6.50) I discover this time around lyricism is only an euphemism for bombastic and overly-grandiose. Think Kathleen Woodiwiss or Shirlee Bushbee, not Gregorian choirs.

The Wish features an extraordinarily original storyline of having a hero train an orphan waif to be a long-lost-now-"found" heiress (also his ward) so that he can get his hands on his missing ward's money. But - oh, how inventive plot twist this is - she turns out to be heiress! Oh, the dilemma.

The waif in question, Perdita (whose life is indeed a perdition), makes her stance clear in the first chapter: I'd rather DIE than to lose my virtue. In the grand tradition of old-school martyrs who would kill themselves rather than to survive evil men for vengeance, I guess, and I'm talking about the Bombay melodrama school, not the Joan of Arc school.

Perdita is as clueless, she may as well be the fourth blind mice. And like all of those "Death Before Rapine" dumborinas, she has no qualms in surrendering her much-hoarded-and-defended-til-death virtue to the hero because he's so manly, not like those countless fat brutes who keep slobbering over her heaving mammary glands. So much for principles.

Since the story is so predictable, the suspense is dead on arrival (I'm joking about the original plot twist - you know that, don't you?). I mean, the fattest, ugliest, slobberiest, ugliest, fattest moron is definitely the bad guy here. The hero Justin, Earl of Ravenall, has no personality at all, apart from bombastic descriptions of his thighs and flanks.

People in The Wish talk like some bombastic version of an Emily Brontë character. But Wuthering Heights The Wish is not, definitely not, since unlike the merciless Catherine, Perdita has all the spine and intelligence of a pumpkin. Likewise, if Heathcliff is a tempest, Justin is dog pee.

The Wish reads like an overwrought melodrama minus intelligent characters or even remotely intriguing ones. At least in Bollywood musicals they have Salman Khan dancing around in indecently short denim cut-off's. I don't think stuffy Justin is up to entertaining me in that manner, alas.

Rating: 52

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